Debt Help Getting Rid of Debt

Getting hitched but have debt? What you (and your spouse) need to know

Erica Sandberg
Written by Erica Sandberg

If you are like the typical marriage-age adult, odds are you’re no stranger to debt. You probably have some balances on credit cards, and might hold student loans or have financed a vehicle. Or maybe you’re behind on a medical bill, owe third-party collectors, the IRS, or friends and family members. The more debt you have and the longer you’re delinquent on payments, the worse it is to deal with. When you’re single no one but you will be affected by that misery. You can struggle with it all in secret. However, when you add a spouse to the mix, complications naturally arise. The fact is, you will be bringing all those creditors and liabilities into the marriage. Such unwanted financial guests can result in serious relationship damage.

But first, some good news. As a general rule, any financial obligation that you acquired prior to marriage remains yours alone. A debt doesn’t suddenly become your partner’s legal responsibility after tying the knot.

Even if you fail to satisfy a bill and the account goes so past due that the creditor sues you for damages, your spouse’s name will be left out of the lawsuit. If you lose the case, his or her personal income will be protected from wage garnishment and other nasty post judgment collection actions. What a relief!

These protections extend past the marriage too. In the event you get divorced, any remaining pre-wedding debt would still be considered yours only. Not that it doesn’t get messy. If you and your spouse merged funds in a checking, savings, or investment account and a creditor wins a lawsuit against you, it’s possible that the money may be tapped for repayment.

And now for the warnings. When you enter into a legally binding relationship, your borrowing and repaying history impacts the other person. Here are four ways your past liabilities can hurt your future spouse.

About the author

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a freelance editor at large, reporter, and advice columnist covering all things fundamental finance. She’s been KRON-TV’s on-air money and credit expert for over 15 years, and has appeared on virtually every national news show, from Fox to CNN. She hosts Making it with Erica, a video program highlighting ways to live adventurously on any budget.

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